India has rapidly adopted modern technology, be it cellular telephony, computers, smartphones, social networks and now tablets. No wonder, the country comes second after the US in incidences of cyber attacks and malicious activity .
Shantanu Ghosh, vice president, India Product Operations, Symantec, one of the world’s largest data security company, says that smartphones, instant messaging and social networks are becoming the new playground for virus and malware attacks in India. “We have found that attackers are now embedding malware into apps that are available for download on app stores of smartphone makers.
On the face of it, these apps look legitimate , doing the same function the user downloaded them for. However, in the background, they function in a way they should not. Indians have the highest confidence levels in the Asia-Pacific-Japan region regarding the use of third-party software on their mobile phones. As India Inc takes to mobile computing and social networking in a big way, it needs to be watchful about the vulnerabilities and threats on these platforms,” he says.
The vulnerabilities on mobile platforms rose by 42% in 2010. The company also noticed a massive threat volume – of over 286 million new threats – with web-based attacks increasing by 92% last year. He reckons that the incidence of malicious activity is not only growing in India, but the country is also among the top originators of malicious activity.
“Our data shows that India was the third highest originator of spam globally, accounting for 35% of the spam zombies and 11% of phishing hosts in the Asia-Pacific-Japan region. Almost half of the malcodes in India are worm and 33% are viruses. An unnerving feature is that six of the 10 worms in India disable security processes. The bot mania continues, with Mumbai and Bangalore accounting for half of the 37,000 odd bot-infected computers.” Ghosh describes 2010 as the year of targeted attacks.
He says these attacks were designed for specific targets and were planned with precision. There was steep rise in the frequency and sophistication of targeted attacks on business infrastructure, the notable incidences being of Stuxnet and Hydraq. “The most visible cyber-events of 2010, Stuxnet and Hydraq, have turned the focus on protecting businesses and critical infrastructure.
India had the third highest Stuxnet infections, after Iran and Indonesia . A large number of infections were through computer users relying on removable drives to copy data.” Stuxnet, first reported in June, targeted computers managing industrial control systems . India had 10% of total infections .
Such attacks also have the ability to leap the ‘air gap’ : they can reach computers that are not connected to the internet, through USB drives. Indian companies that have critical infrastructure, all of which is managed these days by computers, need to be vigilant too, he says.